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Tributes flow for ‘Godfather’ of Australian rock Michael Gudinski

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Rock stars, celebrities and politicians around the world are expressing their shock as tributes flow for Australian music identity Michael Gudinski.

“Today the heart of Australian music was ripped out,” rock star Jimmy Barnes said in a lengthy and emotional online tribute to his close friend.

Mushroom Group, the entertainment business Gudinski founded in 1972, confirmed the promoter and music label boss died in his sleep on Monday night at his Melbourne home aged 68.

Dubbed the godfather of Australian rock, Gudinski was a towering figure in Australian entertainment, with Mushroom expanding into touring, publishing, booking agencies and film and TV production.


Michael was the rock I reached for when life tried to wash me away,” Barnes on Tuesday posted on Twitter.

He said Gudinski had stood by him “through my darkest moments and my most joyous days”, and had always been there for anyone who needed him.

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe was among the first to post a tribute to Gudinski on social media.

“Seems almost impossible. A towering figure on the Australian cultural landscape,” Crowe tweeted.

“I’m not sure we ever agreed on anything … still didn’t stop us from being mates for 30 years. I’m going to miss him deeply. My love to his family.”

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Rock legend Bruce Springsteen issued a heartfelt statement about his late friend, who he said was “first, last, and always a music man.”

According to the 20-time Grammy winner, Gudinski was the best promoter he had met in his 50 years of touring.

“Michael always spoke with a deep rumbling voice, and the words would spill out so fast that half the time I needed an interpreter. But I could hear him clear as a bell when he would say, ‘Bruce, I’ve got you covered. And he always did,” Springsteen wrote.

“He was loud, always in motion, intentionally (and unintentionally) hilarious, and deeply soulful. He will be remembered by artists, including this one, from all over the world every time they step foot on Australian soil.”

Springsteen shared his deepest condolences to Gudinski’s wife and entire family.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he was with Gudinski at the Midnight Oils concert in Sydney last week.

“It’s hard to think of anyone who did more for Australian music than Michael,” he said.

Iconic US rock group, the Foo Fighters, used its Twitter page to thank Gudinski for giving them “and countless others the best night of our lives. Over and over again”, adding “Rock & Roll will miss you deeply”.

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Broadcaster Myf Warhurst said she was “utterly shocked” by Gudinski’s death, adding: “Such a character and so full of life. What an extraordinary legacy he leaves.”

As well as music recording, Gudinski also ran Frontier Touring under the Mushroom umbrella and helped launch numerous iconic Australian acts, among them Eskimo Joe and Skyhooks.

He also launched the careers of fellow Melburnians Kylie and Dannii Minogue who went on to international acclaim.

Gudinski was born in Melbourne in 1952, to Russian immigrant parents.

He got his first taste of the entrepreneurial life aged just seven, when he charged Caulfield Cup racegoers to park in a vacant block next to his house.

By 15, he was organising dances and earning $500 a week, with bands showing up on his parents’ doorstep for payment.

After booking acts such as The Aztecs and Chain (who he also managed), Gudinski dropped out of his final year of high school and established his first booking agency, Consolidated Rock, in 1970.

Gudinski has been a a key player in the music scene since since 1970s. Photo: Getty

In 1972, with a new business partner in Ray Evans, Gudinski booked a major musical coup with the inaugural Sunbury Festival. More than 35,000 fans paid $6 for a three-day ticket.

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It was quickly followed by his first international tour as promoter in the same year: John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.

“It was the most money I’d ever made in one night in my life,” he later told a biographer.

He set up Mushroom Records later that same year.

Most recently, Gudinski developed the Music From The Home Front TV concert to showcase the local music industry as it struggled through the coronavirus pandemic.

He is survived by his wife Sue and children Kate and Matt and two grandchildren Nina-Rose and Lulu.

-with AAP

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